Noonan: Reflecting On 13 Years of Noontime Sports

By Matt Noonan

In May 2009, I started a blog. I titled it Noontime Sports.

And it has been quite the ride.

13 years later, I am still blogging – how is that possible? – and producing a variety of content like videos and graphics for social media on numerous teams I, along with friends and colleagues, like to highlight (and cover), including those here in Massachusetts.

But like I do every May, I reflect on this journey that has taken me from a college dorm room at Wheaton College (Mass.) to various stadiums, field houses, hockey rinks, and baseball diamonds throughout New England.

I could have never imagined when I started this site that I would be credentialed for a few games, not every contest, of the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup run in 2011 (we were not there for any playoff game, but did this thing called “remote” coverage where we watch the game from a couch or living room chair).

I could have never imagined that I would be allowed to cover not one, but a few high school football state championships at Gillette Stadium.

And I certainly did not imagine the following we would gain over the last few years for small college athletics – think New England NCAA Division III schools and programs.

Noontime Sports has and continues to be an important part of my life – hey, I think it has been the driver for meeting so many amazing people (like you, our fans, and followers) at games or coffee shops to the occasional supermarket aisle (yes, I did meet a fan of our content in a supermarket in 2017). But like I say every year around this time, let’s keep the party going.

Here is to an exciting 13th year of blogging to creating content – hey, you never know if this is the year where something big happens!

Thanks to everyone for their continued support for coverage!

Framingham State’s Onujiogu’s Signs With The Seattle Seahawks

Joshua Onujiogu (No. 91), who played defensive end at Framingham State, was recently signed by the Seattle Seahawks. (PHOTO COURTESY: Frank Poulin Photography)

By NoontimeSports.com

Joshua Onujiogu’s football journey is not over yet.

The Framingham State University defensive end that racked up a career-best 44 solo stops last fall, including 13.5 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss, was signed yesterday by the Seattle Seahawks.

According to D3Football.com, Onujiogu is the only NCAA Division III student-athlete to ink his name on a contract with an NFL team.

The Wareham, Massachusetts native gained attention from the Houston Texans and New England Patriots following an impressive pro day workout earlier this year at Holy Cross. He also visited with the Patriots ahead of this year’s draft.

Onujiogu has been a staple of coach Tom Kelley’s defense since his initial season with the Rams in 2016. He registered 228 total tackles in 47 contests to go with 36 sacks, 67 tackles for a loss, and three forced fumbles.

Against Westfield State University last September, Onujiogu recorded his first-ever interception to go with nine total tackles, including five tackles for a loss of 26 yards.

Prior to his team’s initial NCAA postseason contest against Muhlenberg College, Onujiogu was named the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named to the New England Football Writers’ (NEFW) Division II/III All-New England team while securing a spot on the D3Football.com All-Region 1 squad.

Onujiogu concluded his final season by earning a spot on our Noontime Sports All-New England Team.

Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe Selected By The New England Patriots

Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe was selected by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. (PHOTO COURTESY: DraftWire.USAToday.com)

By Matt Noonan

Did the New England Patriots add some competition to its quarterback room?

Perhaps they did by selecting Bailey Zappe this afternoon in the fourth round of the 2022 National Football League (NFL) Draft.

Zappe quarterbacked Western Kentucky University last fall to a 9-5 overall record while establishing new single-season FBS records for passing yards (5,967) and touchdowns (62).

The 62 touchdown passes erased the original mark of 60, which was established by Joe Burrow in 2019.

Prior to becoming the quarterback at Western Kentucky, Zappe was spotted under center for three seasons (2018, 2019, and 2020) at Houston Baptist University, but elected to transfer after the Huskies’ 2020 season concluded after four games.

The team elected to not compete in the Southland Conference’s spring season.  

Zappe, who was selected with the 137th pick, may not be the flashiest quarterback selected in this year’s NFL Draft. However, he certainly seems to fit the “Patriot mold” given the squad may need an extra arm if Mac Jones were to get injured. Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham are still on the roster, but it is possible one or both quarterbacks may not make the final cut.

The Victoria, Texas native is not the biggest signal-caller or has the arm strength of North Carolina’s Sam Howell, but he does throw a “catchable ball” that should create some explosive plays. Zappe led all FBS signal-callers last fall in completions (51) and yards (1,805) on deep passes and could certainly develop into a capable backup quarterback.

With drafting Zappe, it’s possible Jarrett Stidham’s time in New England could be coming to an end. The 2019 draftee, who has played eight games for the Patriots, could be a valuable target for some teams looking for a younger backup quarterback.

As of this afternoon, it seems likely that Brian Hoyer would step in if Mac Jones were to get injured.  

Rhodes Women’s Lacrosse Seeks Its Seventh-Straight SAA Title

Baylee Barker and the Rhodes College women’s lacrosse team will attempt to win its seventh-straight SAA crown on Sunday. (PHOTO COURTESY: Rhodes College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

Since their inaugural season in 2014, the Rhodes College women’s lacrosse team has been a squad to watch in the Southern Athletic Association (SAA).

Rhodes has captured six-straight league crowns and recently clinched its fifth-straight undefeated conference season when they defeated Berry College earlier this month by a score of 24-3.

The 21-goal victory over the Vikings was followed by an impressive 26-3 win this past weekend against Birmingham-Southern College, which provided Rhodes with a spot in Sunday’s SAA Finals.

Rhodes will meet Sewanee in this year’s SAA Championship with the winner advancing to next month’s NCAA Division III Tournament.

Sunday will mark the second time the Lynx and Tigers square off in the SAA Championship as Rhodes defeated Sewanee in 2015 to claim its initial title in program history. The three-goal (13-10) victory would be followed by Rhodes’ first-ever national postseason win against Meredith College.  

Franklin & Marshall defeated the Lynx in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Rhodes enters its seventh-straight conference championship riding a six-game winning streak, which began last month with a 19-8 victory over Transylvania University. Prior to their win over the Pioneers, Rhodes scored some impressive non-league wins against Colorado College (11-10 OT) and Illinois Wesleyan University (18-5). Additionally, Rhodes survived a shootout last month with Rowan University (17-15).

Emily Bruner is one of many players to watch on the Lynx – the junior attack from Gaithersburg, Maryland leads the team in points (103) and assists (90). Baylee Barker leads the squad in goals (62) while Payton Bennett has chipped in 51 goals and 21 assists.  

Bruner’s 103 points are the most recorded by any SAA student-athletes while Barker and Bennett are in the Top 10 goals scored.

Sewanee’s Hattie Fogarty is also in the SAA Top 10 in goals and points and will certainly be a player to watch on Sunday after leading her squad to a 14-9 victory over Centre College in the SAA semifinals.

Fogarty concluded her team’s contest with the Colonels by tallying five goals on 11 shots to go with a season-high six ground balls.

Fogarty and the Tigers rank second in the SAA in goals scored with 287 but will face a challenging test on Sunday against the league’s best defense, which has yielded 124 goals in 16 contests (that is an average of 7.75 goals per game). Rhodes’ defense held Sewanee to a season-low six goals in last month’s meeting with the Tigers being shut out in two frames (second and third quarters).  

In addition to Rhodes’ impressive attack and midfield, fans should certainly keep their eye on the squad’s goalies: Emma Bradley and Olivia Wood. The duo combined for nine saves in this previous meeting with Sewanee, and lead all SAA goalies in goals-against average.

Sunday’s championship, which will take place at Mason Field in Memphis, Tennessee, is scheduled to commence at 1 p.m. eastern.

Centre Looks To Capture Its Second-Straight SAA Title

Will Hubbs and the Centre College men’s lacrosse team are two wins away from capturing their second-straight SAA title. (PHOTO COURTESY: Teresa Poplin)

By Matt Noonan

Another busy and exciting weekend of NCAA Division III lacrosse has officially arrived with the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) set to crown a men’s lacrosse champion.  

The six-team tournament, which began last Saturday with a pair of quarterfinal matchups will resume later today with two semifinal contests with the winners advancing to Sunday’s championship in Danville, Kentucky.

Top-seed Centre College, which won all its league matchups this season, is two wins away from capturing its second-straight league title.

The Colonels will welcome Rhodes College to campus this evening with a face-off scheduled for 7 p.m.

Centre beat Rhodes earlier this month by a score of 11-4. Will Hubbs highlighted the win with four goals – he also scooped one ground ball – while Ridr Knowlton located the back of the net twice. In addition to the Colonels’ offensive output, Centre’s defense limited Rhodes to just one goal in two periods while pitching a shutout in the opening frame.

Since beating the Lynx, the Colonels have won two more games, beating Hendrix College (13-10) and Sewanee (16-9).

Centre has not competed in nearly two weeks, but perhaps the extra rest could help the Black and Gold, which captured its first SAA Tournament title since 2014 last spring when they beat Rhodes.

“It’s good in a sense that we get a little time to rest, recharge, and get healthy,” Centre coach Grant Zimmerman said, via CentreColonels.com.  

Rhodes has won two of its last four contests, including its SAA quarterfinal tilt with Berry College last weekend. The Lynx topped the Vikings, 19-10, and enter tonight’s semifinal matchup riding a two-game winning streak.

Coach Dave Zazzaro’s Lynx have won just four games this season but have faced some challenging competition that could help the Red and White attempt to claim its first postseason crown since 2018.

The other SAA semifinal pits Sewanee visiting Birmingham-Southern College with a face-off scheduled for 4 p.m. (ET).

Birmingham-Southern enters today’s semifinal match riding a four-game winning streak, which included an end-of-season victory over Rhodes.

Reid Harrison secured the two-goal (14-12) win over the Lynx by netting his second tally with 22 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, which halted a three-goal run by Rhodes.

Like Centre, Birmingham-Southern has not competed since April 14, so it will be interesting to see if the squad’s momentum remains with the Panthers, which saw its bid toward an SAA crown conclude last April in the conference semifinals.

The Tigers of Sewanee have won six games this spring and defeated Hendrix in its opening-round matchup last weekend. Luke Valentine led Sewanee with four goals and one assist to go with three ground balls and one caused turnover. Davis Gillenwater notched a hat trick and Phelps Thomas stuffed the stat sheet with five points on three assists, two goals, and one ground ball.

All three student-athletes will be players to watch today in an important matchup with the Panthers.